review of Emily Bezar's first solo album Grandmother's Tea Leaves ('93)
written by Robert L. Doerschuck, which appeared in Keyboard magazine,
made me aware of her. I decided to listen to the CD, which I liked a
lot. My review of the album ran in the issue # 17, December 1994, of
Chris Blackford's (UK) Rubberneck magazine. Hoping to know more, I asked
Emily Bezar for an interview. Luckily she agreed, and so the interview
- her first printed interview ever! - conducted by snail mail in March
1995, ran in Rubberneck # 18, June 1995.
your CD as a fascinating mixture of classical and electronic music...
plus an echo of 60s singers/songwriters. What were your main influences?
my singing and my composing influences are pretty different... this
may account for a lot in my music. I used to sing along with Ella Fitzgerald,
Barbra Streisand and Joni Mitchell records as a girl and figure out
the tunes at the piano. I was playing Brahms rhapsodies, Chopin etudes,
Bartok Mikrokosmos on the piano during that same time. I couldn't name
a single classical singer until I was, oh, 19 or so... I was taught
the technique without the context for a while. Vocal composers who first
stunned me?... Debussy, the Ariettes Oublieés. Wolf, Mignon Lieder...
his incredible phrase settings. And George Crumb's sense of color in
the voice is amazing. The Scriabin symphonies, Bill Evans' miraculous
conversations. Kurt Weill is a more recent influence. I'm fascinated
by the performance history of his work... it seems like a tradition
is still evolving. My electronic influences are harder to pin down...
maybe Pink Floyd meets Stockhausen?
I to use three words to describe your record, I'd say "rapture
through rationality" - which seems to run against the grain of
the current musical climate...
great... you couldn't have put it better. I think about this duality
all the time. I'm constantly aware of an inner battle between my reason
and my intuition. Everybody is to a greater or lesser degree, I think...
maybe I just waste more time worrying about it. You say against the
current climate... yes, so much is either pure catharsis or pure irony
or pure process... I have a friend who's studying neurobiology. Apparently,
all signals pass through the analytical part of the brain before they
reach the emotional control center. It's not the pathway I would have
imagined, based on our generally volatile natures, but it proves to
me that we really need to nurture this connection between faith and
rationality. I always think back to those incredible Renaissance motets.
Its such architectural stuff but so so transcendent.
much of the instrumental side was sequenced?
the electronic parts were played into and then edited with a sequencer,
but there's no looping or computer-generated material. Madame's Reverie,
for example, is an interactively composed piece. I organized my environment
into a huge electronic sketch pad: I massed lots of ideas, sonic gestures,
then triggered and warped them real-time with a keyboard, all the while
recording every move I made. I use a Korg Wavestation quite a bit live.
It's an amazingly flexible instrument. You've got complete control,
if you want it, over every parameter of a sequence triggered from one
note. I think I've only nibbled at what's possible with that thing.
compose long and involved bridges, which is unusual these days...
quite sure what a bridge in a song is supposed to do. Lyrically, maybe
it's the kicker - that little piece of wisdom that reveals the whole
song - or maybe complete subterfuge. I don't know. I think my bridges
are like extended B or C sections. Just Like Orestes is my attempt to
write a song in sonata form; the bridge is the development section I
suppose. I crave adventure, little journeys... my musical wanderlust.
The bridge-as-film-splice idea is another favorite: making a song lurch
to a new mood and scenario in a flash. The tricky part is transitioning
back to the main themes... Some of my songs are almost through-composed,
I think, but I'm usually just reworking the verse material dramatically.
There's still a sense that you've heard it before. Several of my newer,
shorter songs have their "bridges" at the very end. Those
are my ellipse (...) songs. No closure.
put a lot of attention into details, from the way you retard a chord
to the shifting relations between the vocals in, say, Rest Me Here.
do I? All that thick vocal counterpoint at the end of Rest Me Here was
actually done as a multitrack improv. I left the particular dissonances
up to my ear and the detail work came in the mix, where I pushed and
pulled voices to come up with a fabric that worked. Most of the songs
on this album are very ungrounded rhythmically, so I guess issues of
tempo transition and rubato become very important. I don't give myself
many groove pockets to fall into here, so I'm always working horizontally
to establish the "feel" of the tune.
so many electronic options at our disposal, it's more of a problem to
decide when a piece is finished?
than ever today. But I think artistic creation has always involved that
struggle. How do you really know when you've said what you can on one
canvas? I think the answer has to be to always let the expressive goal
set the pace and the limits. I'm still much in the process of learning
how many ideas I can successfully combine at once. You either get an
exhilarating ride or chaotic rubbish and sometimes you just take your
chances and throw it all on.
lyrics are very varied, but all share a complex, adult dimension that's
not common. How do you see lyrics in relation to music?
rarely have a lyrical idea before a musical one. Does this disqualify
me as a songwriter? Sometimes I feel burdened as a singer - being expected
to express with words. I relate to abstract sounds a lot better than
to verbs, I think. My subjects are usually evoked by what I'm hearing
or playing. A cool melody might emerge with some scattered vowels, consonants,
nonsense and then I'll work it into meaning of some kind.
an American pianist/composer who lives in Japan, Bruce Stark, who just
put out an incredibly beautiful chamber music record. Great string quartet
writing. Elizabeth Schwarzkopf's version of Strauss' Four Last Songs
is a lifetime favorite. Joni Mitchell's Hissing Of Summer Lawns. John
Adams, Harmonium. Ira Mowitz is writing gorgeous computer music.
a couple bigger pieces in mind. Another vocal dramatic scene and maybe
a piece for guitar and electronics... I can't play a note on guitar,
but I had a recent dream where one was buzzing all night long in my
ear... there were marimbas too. I'm recently fascinated by the surge
of Eno-inspired ambient electronic recordings. I'm still trying to find
a way to describe what I do... maybe in connection with this genre?
People seem stumped so I need to come up with a catchy phrase. Ambient-opera-folk?
Sounds like a colony of little green Melisandes in Pennsylvania. Who
knows? I hope to be recording my next CD this fall. Of course I dream
about a staged tour with lights and sound oozing out of the walls -
you know... my operatic fantasy... well, maybe some day.
Beppe Colli 1995 - 2004
| Nov. 24, 2004